Barcelona boss Quique Setien was recently allowed to sign Martin Braithwaite. But the Catalan giants’ Champions League draw to Napoli shows exactly why they should have firmed up interest in Napoli star Dries Mertens instead.
Barcelona went into their Champions League tie with Napoli knowing they’d face a fight to make the quarter-finals of the competition.
And Mertens’ stunning goal means that, yet again, the Catalan giants are battling to avoid European heartache.
Few will bet against Barcelona going through.
After all, the Nou Camp will be a different sort of setting to the Stadio San Paulo. One that will be backing the team in red and blue stripes, rather than pale blue.
Barcelona’s home form in Europe is strong. They won’t be pushed around and, in the eyes of many, are still favourites to make the last eight despite their stalemate with Napoli.
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But Mertens’ goal was a beauty, one that will no doubt go viral on social media over the coming hours.
And the Belgium international also showed exactly why Barcelona should have signed him in January.
It was certainly something the La Liga titans thought about.
With Ousmane Dembele ruled out for the rest of the campaign, Quique Setien knew in the New Year that he’d require more firepower.
In the end, earlier this month, Barcelona were able to get a deal for Braithwaite over the line.
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But Mertens is the player they should have signed.
It was just a couple of months ago that Napoli were facing a fight to keep the Belgium international at the club.
The Serie A giants had toiled on the pitch under Carlo Ancelotti and struggled to get going under new boss Gennaro Gattuso.
And Napoli were in disarray behind the scenes, with club president Aurelio De Laurentiis making enemies left, right and centre.
At the time, Barcelona were contemplating whether to swoop for Mertens – whose contract expires at the end of the campaign.
And their decision not to firm up that interest has backfired.
Napoli were good value for their draw, easily stifling the threat of Lionel Messi for the most part.
And, with Mertens in their ranks, they’ll fancy their chances of causing an upset in the return leg.
Barcelona got a draw through Antoine Griezmann.
But they can be forgiven for feeling fearful ahead of the second leg, which takes place on March 18.
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